At 4 a.m. Jeff Neal is wide awake in his dining room with a large cup of coffee beside him as he answers emails about thriving cricket business. By 7 a.m., he’s at his full-time job as a project estimator at PennCoat Inc., a painting and flooring company in Landisville, Pa.
“I have been side hustling for three years,” Neal said, “I started off with gigs from Craigslist and I realized I could make more money selling products online.” With a background in internet marketing, he looked for a product with a high search volume and a few competitors. “I used Google’s keyword planner and I didn’t find anything on the same level as live crickets,” he said.
He used to have a gecko, which ate crickets, so perhaps he was more aware of the demand for these critters than the average entrepreneurial American. Other equally random products that he initially explored selling, including thermometers, women’s shoes and binoculars, had far more competition that live crickets.
He used to have a gecko, which ate crickets, so perhaps he was more aware of the demand for these critters than the average entrepreneurial American.
This past month Neal said he racked up $7,200 in sales on his site, TheCritterDepot.com, which netted him $1,500 in profit. That’s more than the average $989 monthly income the average man with a side gig makes each month, according to personal-finance site Bankrate.com. Interestingly, the crickets he sells serve multiple purposes for his customers including bait for fishing and a source of protein for reptiles and, yes, his customers too.
Neal is just one of 44 million Americans who have what is known as a “side hustle” or way of earning extra money, which is expected to go up as more millenials take on side hustles. “After the birth of my second child, it was evident that I needed to find a way to bring more money into the household,” Neal said as the sole provider of his family of five, “I was willing to get passionate about anything to provide the resources my family needed.”
Technology has lowered the barriers to entry for people who are looking to earn supplemental income, said Nick Holeman, a senior financial planner at Betterment, an investment company based in New York. For many people,launching a side hustle “might seem easier than having the awkward conversation about getting a raise with your boss,” he said.
Another factor: Stagnant wage growth means most Americans aren’t getting raises. “Even though unemployment is down and is at record lows, wage growth has not gone up as quickly as we would like,” Holeman said. “More people are starting to see they’re not doing anything on the weekend.”
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Rick Medeiros (middle) pictured
Side hustles can also help bring in money between jobs
Prior to getting a full-time job after college, Rick Medeiros worked in a part-time promotional role at the Oakland A’s baseball team.“Halfway through the season we lost some people and I still didn’t have a full-time job so I started taking any shift I could get,” he said. In 2016, he became a mascot for the Oakland A’s, which pays $14 an hour.
’The costume is 50 pounds. It definitely weighs on you if you’re running in it too, at the end of the season I was feeling it.’
The following year, Medeiros started covering every shift as the mascot, but eventually secured a full-time job working at a public relations agency in San Francisco. “I basically work 9 to 5,” he said, “A’s games usually start at 7:05 p.m. so I hop on the BART and I could usually get there at 6 p.m.”
It’s a delicate balancing act that’s unlikely to last if he had a more senior role at his public relations firm. And it’s physically demanding. “The costume is 50 pounds,” he said. “It definitely weighs on you if you’re running in it too, at the end of the season I was feeling it.” But he earns enough to pay his monthly rent.
It’s difficult to make a living off side-hustles alone, In fact, most people working a side hustle do so primarily to save for major purchases, pay off debt and save money for retirement, according to a recent report by Betterment.
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Others have turned multiple side hustles into a full-time career, and are prepared to take more conventional jobs. Since leaving her corporate role at Procter & Gamble PG, +0.37% Alina Adams has successfully managed to balance four different freelance roles in addition to caring for her three children. One of her four freelance gigs involves advising parents whose children are applying to New York City kindergarten schools, which she earns $180 an hour.
“In the spring when kindergarten applications were due, I had so many calls so I had to schedule clients in half-hour increments,” she said. “I didn’t even eat because I had so many consults. When they come to me desperate, I always try to accommodate.”
“For those who think freelance is easier than corporate it is not,” she said, “with freelance, you work 24/7 and with corporate, you only do 9 to 5.”